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River safety tips to follow as you head out on the water this summer

River safety tips to follow as you head out on the water this summer
River safety tips to follow as you head out on the water this summer(Janay Reece)
Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 6:07 PM EDT
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NEW RIVER VALLEY, Va. (WDBJ) - Emergency officials report seeing more rescue calls than usual since the summer began.

They say more people have been out on the water—unaware of how dangerous conditions can get.

A man was found dead Sunday after kayaking along the New River. Officials want to encourage people who plan to go out on the New River to take time to prepare for an emergency to prevent another tragedy.

“It really hurts to hear that we’ve lost a member of our outdoorsman community, you know, and something that I believe could have been prevented if he was wearing a life jacket. Although who knows, you know accidents do happen. The river can be dangerous,” said Loren Hunter, the owner of RadVentures on the New.

Hunter owns and operates the tubing and rental company, so he says he understands how quickly conditions can change on the New River.

“It’s really sad to hear that an accident like this has happened, but that’s why we just tried to take every precaution or any other measure possible. I take down your cell phone number when you rent anything from me. I give away cell phone bags to take with you in case there is some sort of emergency so you can either call me or call 911 If there’s a medical emergency,” said Hunter.

The missing kayaker was one of the five technical rescue calls Blacksburg’s Volunteer Rescue Squad responded to in the last few days.

“Most often, and we see individuals who may have some experience, but are just getting back into it for the first time in a long time. So before you go anywhere, definitely look up safety rules, whether that be for water environments or even trail and hiking environments,” said Eric Hahn, a volunteer with the Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Hahn says throughout the summer, as people become more comfortable with the river, they need to realize the environment can change fast.

“Whether they’re storms off in the distance, or the dam changes the flow rate, waters can rise rapidly; rapids ahead that may be safer can become extremely dangerous. So individuals need to be aware of their surroundings and always have an exit strategy to get into a safe location,” said Hahn.

Responders say the best thing you can do to prevent an emergency is to prepare and have a plan.

“If you do find yourself in rapids or in the river, keep your head out of the water. Keep your feet ahead, try to get to a safe location, whether that be on top of a rock or even over near a bank. You always want to go with the flow and get downstream and over on the bank as soon as possible,” said Hahn.

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